- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2016

LEESBURG, Va. — Kirk Cousins‘ offseason has been different from what he’s used to, but thequarterback expected that after leading the Washington Redskins to a 9-7 record and the NFC East title while setting single-season franchise records along the way.

His offseason plan has included appearances such as throwing out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game or touring London ahead of the Redskins‘ upcoming game against the Cincinnati Bengals in October. Perhaps the greatest difference has been being at the center of contract negotiations, the first of his career, as the team tries to work out a long-term deal to keep Cousins in place beyond this coming season.

Cousins quickly accepted the Redskins‘ franchise tag tender in March, which will pay him $19.95 million this season, and the July 15 deadline to negotiate a long-term deal is approaching. General manager Scot McCloughan has remained confident that the team will be able to work out a deal before then, but even if they don’t, he is optimistic it will happen eventually.

“We’re still talking,” McCloughan said on Monday at Ryan Kerrigan’s Leukemia Golf Classic. “Saw him this morning, still talking. It’s a positive situation. As you guys are well aware, we want him back, he wants to be here, we just got to work out a deal.

“It’s a big contract. It’s a position that’s very important to us and he wants to be in an organization he feels very passionate about. If it’s not July 15, don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”

That’s a philosophy that McCloughan has maintained since discussing Cousins‘ situation at the Senior Bowl in January — one he’s carried through the NFL combine in February and the owners’ meetings in March.

In the meantime, Cousins has expressed his content with the franchise designation until his agent, Mike McCartney, and McCloughan are able to negotiate a different contract.

“I’m focused on trying to play well, let my play do the talking,” Cousins said on Monday. “Let the team and your agent handle the rest. There’s plenty of time and as a result, I don’t think a lot gets done or happens when you’ve got plenty of time. I don’t really have expectations. My expectations are I need to be getting better, I need to be working, I need to be improving, developing myself as a player. Beyond that, I don’t try to expect or predict what to happen.”

Last year, Cousins was named the starter and thrived in his fourth season with the Redskins. He completed 69.8 percent of his passes and threw for a franchise-record 4,166 yards. Cousins threw 29 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions and rushed for five touchdowns.

Despite the rampant success, Cousins said his philosophy hasn’t changed much.

“The one thing you do expect is for things to change,” Cousins said. “You can’t be afraid of change. Yeah, things were a lot different a year ago, and I’m sure a year from now, they’ll be a lot different. It’s just the nature of the business, the way things are. Hopefully, they move in a positive direction, but you never know and you need to be able to react accordingly. Again, you just try to control what you can control to do that, which is to work really hard, try to lead, try to help teammates and if you do that, trust that good things will happen.”

Less than two weeks ago, the Redskins signed tight end Jordan Reed to a five-year, $50 million extension — even after landing cornerback Josh Norman on a five-year, $75 million contract. Last July, Washington signed Kerrigan to a five-year, $57.5 million extension. In the preseason, the Redskins also inked left tackle Trent Williams to a new five-year deal.

Since McCloughan’s arrival as general manager in 2015, he has emphasized maintaining his own players. His hope is that Cousins is next.

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